SOURCE: The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University

April 04, 2007 11:20 ET

Statement by Joseph A. Califano, Jr. Chairman and President of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University and Former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and

Welfare on Anheuser-Busch's "Spykes"

NEW YORK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- April 4, 2007 -- The following statement is an opinion of Joseph A. Califano, Jr. Chairman and President of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University:

Anheuser-Busch is urging retailers to "Spyke up your sales with our new product, Spykes...a prepackaged [12 percent alcohol] beverage created to add to beer." The product, which comes in small attractive bottles about the size of a nail polish bottle, has four flavors: Hot Chocolate, Spicy Lime, Hot Melons, and Spicy Mango. Anheuser-Busch says, "A Spykes pour takes beer up a notch by adding a caffeinated rush and a sweet taste that finishes hot."

This product is sure to attract underage drinkers. No 30- or 40-year-old beer drinker is going to add hot chocolate or some other flavor to make beer more palatable -- but kids will and when they do they will get two drinks in one.

Anheuser-Busch well knows that the younger kids are when they start drinking, and the more they drink, the likelier they are to become excessive adult drinkers. Spykes is a predatory move to attract underage drinkers who already account for almost 20 percent -- $23 billion -- of alcohol sales.

The Anheuser-Busch Spykes product and marketing is reminiscent of the sweetening and flashy names which Reynolds Tobacco used in its abortive effort to attract young smokers. Like the alcohol company, the tobacco company sweetened the flavors of cigarettes and gave them flashy names, ranging from Beach Breeze (watermelon) to Bayou Blast (berry) to Kauai Kolada (pineapple and coconut). Eventually, confronted with the outrage of the public health community, Reynolds stopped selling these cigarettes in the United States.

Just as Anheuser-Busch has followed Reynolds Tobacco's efforts to sweeten its cigarettes with an attempt to sweeten its beer, Anheuser-Bush should follow the tobacco company and stop selling Spykes. Retailers and liquor stores should refuse to put this child friendly 12 percent alcohol sweetener that "gives a kick to your beer" on their shelves.

CASA is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA has issued 63 reports and white papers, published one book, conducted demonstration projects focused on children, families and schools at 161 sites in 67 cities and counties in 29 states plus Washington, DC and a Native American tribal reservation, and has been evaluating the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment in a variety of programs and drug courts. CASA is the creator of the nationwide initiative Family Day - A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children™ -- the fourth Monday in September -- the 24th in 2007 -- that promotes parental engagement as a simple and effective way to reduce children's risk of smoking, drinking and using illegal drugs. For more information visit www.casacolumbia.org.

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